Cooperative Education & Internship Program

NMSU enjoys a national reputation for its Cooperative Education and Internship Program. The co-op/internship program is the premier experiential education program at NMSU. This educational program, administered by the NMSU Office of Experiential Learning (OEL), allows students to complete a co-op/internship experience during the fall, spring, or summer semesters and earn an official and permanent notation on their academic transcript. Our goal is to provide NMSU students with experience-based learning through paid employment experiences. These practical, curriculum-related experiences must be structured to meet student’s interests, abilities, and career goals while meeting employers’ needs. The Cooperative Education and Internship program strives for partnerships where the student, the employer, and NMSU all participate on an equal basis to produce a meaningful educational experience.


Patricia Leyba Director - Office of Experiential Learning
Audria Lujan Coordinator - Cooperative Education & Internship Program

Defined by the Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA)...
  • Cooperative education is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. A cooperative education experience, commonly known as a “co-op”, provides academic credit for structured job experience. Co-op experiences are either full-time (40 hours per week) alternating periods (semester, quarter) of work and school or part-time (20 hours per week) combining work and school during the same time period. Co-op experiences are paid, supervised by a professional who has followed the same career path of the student and students complete more than one assignment (2 or more) with progressive levels of responsibility.
  • An internship is an experience involving student’s working in their expected career field, either during a semester or over the summer. Internships may be paid or unpaid and may or may not carry academic credit. Internships are typically one-time experiences. Internships are typically connected to an academic program with course requirements designed and monitored by faculty. Internships generally have related learning outcomes and academic assignments required.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) establishes uniformity in the use and application of the term "internship" and recommends the following definition...
  • An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
History of Cooperative Education & Internships The Cooperative Education program began at New Mexico College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts (now NMSU) in the summer of 1929 in the College of Engineering. The first opportunities in the new Cooperative Education program were offered to students in Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Geological Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, and Mining Engineering.
While co-op/internship experiences vary within business, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations, both students and employers must follow and abide by the policies and guidelines of the NMSU Co-op / Internship program. All experiences undergo a holistic review by the Co-op / Internship program. Students must abide by: Employers must abide by: Students are highly encouraged to report their full-time and part-time co-op/internship experiences to the NMSU Office of Experiential Learning (OEL). In order to certify a co-op/internship experience, students must complete the requirements of the co-op/internship program. Before students embark on the co-op/internship, NMSU OEL performs a holistic review of the experience to ensure students complete a quality program and work in a safe environment. The NMSU OEL seeks to partner with employers that are committed to the co-op/internship experience and support students throughout the entire process.

Type of Work

A Co-op / Internship should be pre-professional work related to the student’s major and intellectually challenging in nature. The employer (business/company/organization) must have a registered business name with the state / local government.


  • New Mexico State University encourages that all internship positions are paid. All employers are strongly encouraged to follow state and federal regulations pertaining to labor laws when determining remuneration options.
  • New Mexico State University recognizes the guidelines for qualified unpaid experiences. Some unpaid internships may provide students with experience in the academic field that augments what is being taught in the classroom and helps move theory into practice. Though employers decide if an internship will be funded, New Mexico State University determines if an internship qualifies for academic credit/transcript certification. All employers must be aware of how the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for unpaid internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act may affect your company. To avoid legal action, a for-profit employer may legally “hire” an unpaid intern only when the intern is the “primary beneficiary” of the position and meets the six criteria.
  • US Department of Labor – Fact Sheet #71 – Internships
  • Study on the impact of unpaid internships on career development

Co-op / Internship Duration

The Co-op / Internship experience must fall within the summer, fall, or spring semesters according to NMSU’s Academic Calendar and should last a certain number of weeks according to its semester:
  • Fall & Spring Semesters: 14 – 16 Weeks
  • Summer Semester: 10 – 12 Weeks

Part-time / full-time

  • Part-time Student on-campus employment: Work a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 hours/week during the Spring and Fall academic semester (Students may work a maximum of 40 hours/week during the Summer semester, Fall break, Winter or Spring break).
  • Part-time Student off-campus employment (also known as parallel plan): Student works 15-29 hours/week.
  • Full-time employment (also known as alternating plan): Student works 30+ hours/week.

Physical Work Location

The Co-op/Internship experience must be at an established and registered employer (business/company/organization) location. The employer must follow the corresponding business laws and regulations and obtain proper permits and licenses required by the state/local government. For the security of the student, the physical work location cannot be a person’s residence. Please contact the NMSU Cooperative Education and Internship Program with any questions ( | 575-646-4115).